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MRom

What's the industry like?

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MRom    143

Hey guys,

 

I'm new to the forum and signed up to ask you fine gents some questions about the industry.

 

A little background,

I've been employed in the Architecture field for over 5 years now. I can not say that I like my job and the pay is garbage. I've learned that the only reason for anyone to get into this industry is if you HONESTLY love the work because in the end that may be the only inccentive to stay.

 

That being said, for my entire life I've been a huge gamer and the gaming industry may be the only industry that I can honestly say I'm very familiar with. I'm consistently reading up on new games and the companies involved. 

 

I'm considering a career change. I can barely stand the architecture industry and I'm looking for a way out.

 

I've been looking online for information about what it's like to be employed in the gaming industry but figured it best to go straight to the source and ask you gentlemen.

 

What can I typically expect for pay, atmosphere, hours, etc? 

I've a kid so working round the clock may not be ideal.

 

What advice can you give me if I were to seek a job in the industry?

Are there any niche jobs that'd help my career along?

I live in Ontario, Canada - What's the industry like here?

Any advice for schooling in my location?

 

Sorry for shooting a bunch of questions at you but any information is greatly appreciated!

 

Thanks guys.

Edited by MRom

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Tom Sloper    16040

1. What can I typically expect for pay,
2. atmosphere,
3. hours,
4. etc?
5. What advice can you give me if I were to seek a job in the industry?
6. Are there any niche jobs that'd help my career along?
7. I live in Ontario, Canada - What's the industry like here?
8. Any advice for schooling in my location?


1. It depends on which job specialty you do. Read the Game Industry Salary Survey (just Google it).
2. It's reasonably fun, considering the pressures and politics. It's a job in which you see people enjoying their work more than you probably do in architecture.
3. Long. Google "EA spouse" and "video game crunch."
4. Can you be more specific?
5. Read this forum's FAQs. http://www.gamedev.net/page/reference/faq.php/_/breaking-into-the-industry-r16
6. I suppose so, but I'm not sure what you're asking.
7. Not sure what you're asking. More opportunities in Toronto, London, and Ottawa than most other cities. See gamedevmap.com and gameindustrymap.com
8. None. Why do you want to go to school? Nobody'll be impressed that you just went back to school.

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Bregma    9201


I live in Ontario, Canada - What's the industry like here?

Just a FYI, but Ottawa has a burgeoning gamedev industry, and local university Carleton offers a degreed gamedev program (not a coincidence).  It may be possible to both work in the industry while gaining specialized formal education there.

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Buster2000    4310

All the reasons that you give for wanting to get out of architechture are also reasons to NOT go into the games industry.

 

You should only go into games if you absolutly LOVE games and nothing more.

 

The pay in the games industry is garbage compared to doing the same job outside games. 

 

The work life balance whilst not as bad as the EA spouse thing is still very bad there are almost no games companies where you won't be expected to pull short notice late shifts or weekends.  (Note I said almost.  There may be one or two but these are the exception to the rule.)

 

There is very little job security.  Even the most successful companies will give staff the axe at the drop of the hat after a big release.

 

If you really want to go into games then I'd suggest trying to get a few freelance gigs that you can fit in alongside your current day job rather than just up sticks and leave.

 

The other thing I've found is even the nice companies that have no crunch policies and family friendly policies soon change whenever the end of year figures come through and managers get a little cranky.

 

 

 

This is my view as a bitter ex games industry programmer.  It may be entirely different for artists on the pay front.

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Valoon    824

I think it's really true only for the programmers. For artists it's probably more job security to be in games actually (if they get a full time job).

 

I mean if you are an artist and you're not really into freelance I think the game industry is your best hope, there is even some composers with full time jobs.

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Orymus3    18821


I've been employed in the Architecture field for over 5 years now. I can not say that I like my job and the pay is garbage.

 

Hey that's what I think of the gaming industry :P

 


I've learned that the only reason for anyone to get into this industry is if you HONESTLY love the work because in the end that may be the only inccentive to stay.

 

Same...

 

 


What can I typically expect for pay, atmosphere, hours, etc? 

As a rookie, I'm going to assume you have no previous experience and will land as a QA (it's quite possible you'll end up elsewhere, especially given your architecture experience which is sometimes relevant to some extent of AAA level design). Salary will be minimal, athmosphere depends on the place you work for, and generally, hours will be squeezed away from you like you can't possibly imagine. 

The only person that I know that made it out of the architecture field into game development said he was actually better off in Architecture. But that's a very small sample.

 


I've a kid so working round the clock may not be ideal.

 

Join the club. I've got 2. Up to recently, I was just about never around. Not all positions are directly vulnerable to crunch time, but I'm in the management field, so I'm generally the one to bleed first. You may have a different experience depending on the studio, of course.

 


What advice can you give me if I were to seek a job in the industry?

 

Make sure that this is what you really want. I don't think of this industry as 'forgiving' or a good place to 'spend the time'. For the most part, experience earned in the field can't be used elsewhere as most jobs are either more creative or have a more scientific approach. Game development is right in the middle imho, and this makes our particular skillset unique. Very few people manage to transition out of game development seamlessly (aside from developers of course).

 


Are there any niche jobs that'd help my career along?

QA. It's a good job to land. It's not the only way in, but personally, I feel like its the best way to learn as much as possible about the industry from a position that shows you nearly everything from the get go. Get involved and you might just step up. That's what I did, initially.

 


I live in Ontario, Canada - What's the industry like here?

I'm not fully familiar with Ontario's current situation, but I believe there was a Zynga studio there for a while (not sure if it is still around). A number of skilled developers worked for Zynga there. There's also Ubisoft Toronto. I think the head is still Jade Raymond (originally the designer for Assassin's Creed I). I've also heard of SnowedIn Studios on a number of occasions. 

You can probably find out more on the game dev map.

 


Any advice for schooling in my location?

 

Depends the job you want to land in the videogame industry. What would you like to do?

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MRom    143

First, thank you everyone for your time.

 

You've given me quite a bit to consider and more material to go through and read up on.

To be honest it still looks better than the architecture industry and probably even pays better at frst glance.

 

One of my biggest concerns is salary/pay. With my son being 4 months old I find myself worried about being financially stable. Currently me and my wife are living on one salary so times are a bit hard.

I've read somewhere, your posts say otherwise, that there's money in game development. I figured that it may be a good move and maybe I'd be able to combine my passion for games with a career - a job I'd be happy with for once.

 

I've been exploring several options but this one I thought would be the one I'd actually enjoy. Perhaps it's back to the drawing board?

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Orymus3    18821


I've read somewhere, your posts say otherwise, that there's money in game development. I figured that it may be a good move and maybe I'd be able to combine my passion for games with a career - a job I'd be happy with for once.

 

There's money for seniors, but it has the lowest entry salaries I've seen.

When I transitioned to this industry I basically lost half my paycheck, and I was a junior at what I did before, so it tells you how bad the drop can be.

6 years later, I'm still recovering from the loss and am almost at the level I was originally...

I'm probably not the right guy to say 'there's money in video games' to ;)

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DerekL    876
What can I typically expect for pay, atmosphere, hours, etc? 

 

 

Atmosphere like any company depends on the company, I've worked at companies with great atmospheres where team building is crucial and other companies where you feel like you don't even matter and you could be replaced and nobody would notice or care. The game industry wages are usually lower than their software counterparts but can still be worth doing.

You also have to watch out for layoffs, ive been laid off 4 times in the last 5 years, it happens all the time in the game industry for multiple reasons(not enough money, downsizing, end of project)

 

I've a kid so working round the clock may not be ideal.

 

 

Then the game industry might not be for you as most companies have crunch periods where they expect extra work from you to get things done on time. Hours of overtime/crunch depends on the company and their release structure( web games are a little less strict for this as you can push updates when you want as opposed ot console games where you purchase a release date and that's your release date no ifs or buts about it. You can also find working at a company that is under a publisher deal to be stressful as the company usually doesn't get paid unless it hits milestones.

 

What advice can you give me if I were to seek a job in the industry?

 

Don't go work for a startup if you want free time. Also do research on the companies you want to apply at beforehand. I know some people who have ended up at some pretty crappy game jobs. Consider moving to somewhere were there are more game companies if your having trouble finding a job.

If you are looking at one of the industries top companies like bliz, ea, ubi I would suggest a different company as larger game companies like these tend to have less than great work atmospheres and you get hired as part time/full time so you don't get benefits.

 

Are there any niche jobs that'd help my career along?.

 

Your architecture background is probably enough, look at some game tutorials and get a demo going that you can show to possible employers

 

I live in Ontario, Canada - What's the industry like here?

 

There are quite a few game companies in Toronto, check out gamedevmap.com to get a feel for what companies are around you, do some research.

 

Any advice for schooling in my location?

 

Why do you want to go back to school? Your architecture background is it a CS degree? If so you are fine.

 

If you do end up going back to school dont go to a "game" university/college go to a proper university with a proper CS degree that is accredited and will be accepted where you plan on going to school. 

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emcconnell    940

I've worked on teams ranging from 5-500 and as various programmer and designer positions. The hours vary honestly. I've worked 9-5, 9-7 and 8-6. Crunch can mean anything from 10 hours a day for a week to 80 hours a week for months. Things can get really depressing honestly.

 

Depending on the company you may lose your job at any time. Your team could get shut, the game could get canceled or the company could go under. Everyone has stories of awesome games that never saw the light of day.

 

The money has always been good to me, I have a MS in Computer Science. Comparing to my jobs outside the industry, it only trails a bit.

 

The atmosphere also greatly varies from a hanging with your friends feeling to a everyone getting drilled and turning on each other due to the stress.

 

 

 

The industry can be amazing but it can also be absolutely terrible. It can be creatively fulfilling and soul-sucking. I honestly wouldn't recommend it at this point. The high end of the industry is rough. If you are "considering" it then don't. Try making some indies games and get educated in game development that way.

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DerekL    876

One of my biggest concerns is salary/pay. With my son being 4 months old I find myself worried about being financially stable. Currently me and my wife are living on one salary so times are a bit hard.

I've read somewhere, your posts say otherwise, that there's money in game development. I figured that it may be a good move and maybe I'd be able to combine my passion for games with a career - a job I'd be happy with for once.

 

If you feel as though you have enough experience, try not to go for an entry level position this might help bump the salary up. There is money to be made in games but you also have to look at the amount of successful gaming studios to unsuccessful ones. 

Join a startup - Low pay - Higher chance of a bigger payout later down the road. ( expect tons of overtime)

Big company - Lower pay unless you are a senior, expect lots of overtime and probably get pigeon holed into one role(my friend has been drawing jersey, shorts and shoe textures for the last 5 years)

Smaller company - Higher pay most likely and you get the chance to broaden your skills( you will get a lot of opportunities to pickup new task and takeover new responsibilities as well as climb the ladder)

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BagelHero    1524

This forum is really strange to come back to when you've been frequenting game art sites. Entirely different attitude...

I know a handful of ex-architects making a reasonably happy living off being environment artists or level designers. They like their jobs, but the nature of the industry is that it's quite difficult to weather.

 

A teacher of mine (who left the school last year to go work at 2K Australia) said switching to games was one of the better decisions he'd made, even with the depressing reality of getting cut at the end of big projects and working on so many games that just never come out. See, the reason he'd wanted to be an architect in the first place was that he wanted to make buildings, interesting ones. He didn't realise how much hard work would go into doing things he really didn't care about. Then he discovered environment art, and to him, it was all of the things in Architecture that he wanted to do, but were unviable and not what you ended up spending all your time on. He could cojure up any crazy design he wanted, no matter how improbable, and it would actually be viable for the project. That was about when he jumped ship and took up a mid-level environment role at a reasonably sized studio.

 

Thats not to say that any of this is applicable to you, but to give you a real world example of this kind of situation working out.
But especially if you have a family, it's important to warn that the industry doesn't always treat it's employ well; the example of getting cut every time a big project is finished and similar are uncomfortably common stories.

 

Games may actually hold the ideal job for you, but it's best if you make it a passion project. Don't quit your day job, but spend your free time exploring jobs in the industry you could see yourself doing eg, environment artist, technical artist, level designer... If you really enjoy it (the task, not the idea of making games), and you want to persue it (meaning, you love it so much you wouldn't mind slaving away on it day in and day out), THEN consider it. You say you like games? Keep in mind that if you're serious about wanting to make them, you may very well not have that much time to actually play them. And making them isn't playing them. Kinda sucks the fun out of a lot of the ones you do play, too.

Plenty of people make it just fine in the industry, but it's a combination of luck and passion. You may not want to rely on luck when you have a family to think of, but if you like it enough, it's certainly possible to give it a go with all that fire in your belly and the hard work that comes along with it. Just actually figure out if you like it that much, first. Because you may find it holds the same issues as your previous career choices.

 

Good luck!

 


 

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Orymus3    18821


You also have to watch out for layoffs, ive been laid off 4 times in the last 5 years, it happens all the time in the game industry for multiple reasons(not enough money, downsizing, end of project)

 

That's some serious bad luck you've got there?

 

 


I've worked on teams ranging from 5-500 and as various programmer and designer positions. The hours vary honestly. I've worked 9-5, 9-7 and 8-6. Crunch can mean anything from 10 hours a day for a week to 80 hours a week for months. Things can get really depressing honestly.

 

I absolutely second that. Personally, I've seen 80-90h/w for 6 months straight. I've made it clear when I came to my new employer that this would never happen again (they can get either from me though, either 6 months of crunch time, or a single week of 80-90h).

 


Smaller company - Higher pay most likely and you get the chance to broaden your skills( you will get a lot of opportunities to pickup new task and takeover new responsibilities as well as climb the ladder)

Higher chances of layoffs though. I used a small company as a stepping stone. We had people laid off monthly at best...

 

 

I would recommend making games as an indie as well. In fact, I feel a significant portion of the people in the industry that are in because of their passion end up leaving bigger businesses because of irreconcilable differences and start their own indie business later down the road.

That being said, you'll probably need industry experience at some point, if only to compare your way of doing things with the industry standards and see where you might err, and where they might.

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MRom    143

Again, everyone thanks so much for the input. I want you all to know that your advice, comments, and experience isn't falling on deaf ears. I'm seriously listening and trying to take in everything being said.

 

Perhaps you've a good point about trying the industry out via indie projects instead of jumping right in. 

 

so i've a few more questions then:

 

First, in the broader view of the industry, which jobs are highest in demand? In architecture the industry is swinging over to new software called 'Revit' so having experience/skill with that program almost guarntees you a job. is there something similar to this in the gaming industry?

 

Second, how exactly does the indie scene work? A broad question I'm sure but a quick summary would help. Where should I focus my attention to if I were to try and make an impact there?

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DerekL    876
First, in the broader view of the industry, which jobs are highest in demand? In architecture the industry is swinging over to new software called 'Revit' so having experience/skill with that program almost guarntees you a job. is there something similar to this in the gaming industry?

 

 

Programmers are always the highest in demand, There's usually anywhere around 4-10 programmers per designer and maybe 1-3 artists.

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frob    44908

Programmers are always the highest in demand, There's usually anywhere around 4-10 programmers per designer and maybe 1-3 artists.

That actually depends on the project.

I've worked on projects where programmers outnumbered the artists, on projects where the artists were roughly equal in number to programmers, and I've been on projects where the art folks outnumbered programmers by about 4:1. And as typical, design and production are much less: each designer can often support ten or more other developers, producers often twenty or thirty.


One big reason for the discrepancy is the stage of the project. If the code base is immature and the engine is being heavily modified then there will be a larger ratio of programmers. When technology is stable, tools are mature, and everything is data driven, the need for programmers is small relative to the need for data content.

Another big reason is that different games have different needs. A hobby game may be all about a specific mechanic and rely on minimal art. An new engine for a moderate sized game will need a lot of programming to get all the parts in place. A blockbuster AAA title usually builds off of existing tools but needs an enormous pile of content. A long-running MMO can get along with nothing but content for quite some time.

Every project is different.

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DerekL    876

 

 

That's some serious bad luck you've got there?

Well 2 off the layoffs were at the same company got rehired 4 months later the first time, unless you get full time at a big company its expected.

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MRom    143

Again, thanks for the input.

 

I've basically decided that I'll maybe get into this as a hobby and see where it takes me. I've spent today downloading all sorts of software and programs to get my feet wet and see where it takes me. 

 

Seems to me that the first place I should start is to learn a coding language. 

I've been going through some of the links provided to me by you fine gents and it seems to me that I should start off with 'C' and move into 'C++' when I've a decent foundation - does this sound about right? Am I off the mark here or is there somewhere else I should be focusing my attention.

 

I've also downloaded:

 

Microsoft Visual Studio

Maya

3DS Max Design

Unity 3D

 

Keep in mind, with my background in architecture, I'm vaguely familiar with 3DS Max but know AutoCAD and Revit intimately. Can I safely assume that AutoCAD and Revit aren't used much or at all in the industry for anything like level design?

 

Does my approach seem to be the best way at getting into this?

 

Again, thanks so much for all of the input!

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Tom Sloper    16040

I've also downloaded:
 
Microsoft Visual Studio
Maya
3DS Max Design
Unity 3D
 
...Does my approach seem to be the best way at getting into this?


This approach is going to overload your brain and overwhelm your senses. Start with one tool, and after you have gotten what you want to get out of it, THEN try one of the others.

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MRom    143

 

I've also downloaded:
 
Microsoft Visual Studio
Maya
3DS Max Design
Unity 3D
 
...Does my approach seem to be the best way at getting into this?


This approach is going to overload your brain and overwhelm your senses. Start with one tool, and after you have gotten what you want to get out of it, THEN try one of the others.

 

Deffinetly. 

 

I wasn't going to try to simultaneously learn them all. Just figured I'd like to atleast have at my disposal all tools for the trade.

 

I was going to focus on learning a programming language fist and start off with 'C' then go into 'C++'.

Generally with this kind of stuff I tend to pick it up quick. 

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